Late carrot sowing, plenty of corn and okra, spotty tomatoes.

Newly emerged carrots with indicator beets. Photo Kathryn Simmons

Newly emerged carrots with indicator beets.
Photo Kathryn Simmons

We finally got our big planting of fall carrots sown. Much later than I’ve ever sown carrots before. Our goal is early August, so we are a month behind. We usually harvest all our carrots at some point in November and store them for the winter. If carrots take 75 days to grow and we’ve lost 30, how big will the carrots get? The rate of growth will slow as it gets colder.We can’t just harvest a  month later and expect the same size carrots as usual. It’s not a linear rate of increase. Some crops double in size in their last month of growth. if that’s true of carrots, we’ll get about half the yield we usually do, if we harvest at our usual date.

We had challenges preparing the soil (too much rain, too many grass weeds, not enough rain, not enough time. . . ). This morning we finally got it all raked and rocks picked out, and seeds put in. We mark the beds with the Johnny’s rowmarker rake five rows in a four foot wide bed. Then we sow with an EarthWay seeder. It’s very quick and easy. We sow about 12″ of beet seeds at one end – these are our “Indicator Beets”. When the beets germinate, we know the carrots will be up the next day and it’s time to flame weed the carrot beds.

Flame weeding carrots. Photo by Kati Falger

Flame weeding carrots.
Photo by Kati Falger

Once you get over the hesitation about using a fiercely hot propane burner, flame weeding is also quick and easy. And boy, it saves so much hand weeding! We bought our Red Dragon backpack flame weeder from Fedco. As you see, we decided to use wheelbarrow rather than carry the propane tank on our backs, and include a second person (and in this picture, a third!). The second person is the safety monitor and looks out for unwanted things (like hay mulch burning).

We do hope our carrots will have ideal growing weather and catch up a bit. We’ve sowed 4000 feet of them. Here’s a picture of fall carrots from a previous year:

Fall carrots. Photo by Bridget Aleshire

Fall carrots.
Photo by Bridget Aleshire

I did a bit of research on last sowing dates for carrots in our area.  Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in their useful Fall & Winter Vegetable Gardening Quick Reference suggests 8/31. We’re five days later than that. The National Gardening Association on their customizable Garden Planting Calendar for our zipcode comes up with September 4. The news is getting better! They have planting dates for spring and fall, in a very user-friendly format. The How Do Gardener Page says August 31 is the last planting date for carrots in Virginia. Fingers crossed!

Sweet corn plantings 3, 4 and 5 (left to right, 4 rows of each) earlier this summer. Photo by Bridget Aleshire

Sweet corn plantings 3, 4 and 5 (left to right, 4 rows of each) earlier this summer. Planting 5 is under the ropes to the right.
Photo by Bridget Aleshire

Meanwhile our sweet corn is doing very well. We’re eating the Bodacious sweet corn and the Kandy Korn of our fifth sowing. In a couple of days the Silver Queen of our fifth sowing will be ready. After that we have sowing number 6, the same three varieties. That’s it: six sweet corn sowings through the season.

Another crop being very successful is okra. We grow Cow Horn okra from Southern Exposure. We like it for its tall plants, high productivity and the fact that the pods are tender at 5-6″. We do find it hard to convince our cooks that we have specially chosen this “commune-friendly” variety so they don’t have to deal with fiddly little okra pods when cooking for 100. We used to harvest at 5″, we’ve had to compromise and harvest at 4″.

Cow Horn okra. Photo by Kathryn Simmons

Cow Horn okra.
Photo by Kathryn Simmons

And then the not-so-good news – spotty tomatoes. We have been getting anthracnose,

Anthracnose spot on tomato. Photo courtesy of T.A. Zitter, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Anthracnose spot on tomato.
Photo courtesy of T.A. Zitter, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

small water-soaked spots. The Vegetable MD Online site is one I often turn to. I go to the “Diseases by crop” page, then click on the vegetable I’m worrying about. Sometimes the vitally helpful photos are down the page, below the horizon. Here’s the info which I think tells us where we went wrong:

” In late spring the lower leaves and fruit may become infected by germinating sclerotia and spores in the soil debris. “

While we were determining what was wrong when our plants got hit with some hot weather herbicide drift, we didn’t touch the plants in case it was a viral disease.  We didn’t do the string weaving. The plants sprawled on the ground. Later we made a bit of an effort to catch up but failed. The plants were a sprawly mess, even though the foliage recovered and the plants were loaded with fruits. Far too much contact with the ground! (Even though we used the biodegradable plastic, each plant had a hole in the plastic, and soil ‘appeared’). I also noted that anthracnose is more prevalent on poorly drained soils, and the area we had planted in was one of the lower lying plots, and July had lots of rain.

Water-soaked circular sunken spots of anthracnose (Colletotrichum coccodes) usually appear on the shoulders of mature fruit. Photo courtesy of T.A. Zitter, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Water-soaked circular sunken spots of anthracnose (Colletotrichum coccodes) usually appear on the shoulders of mature fruit.
Photo courtesy of T.A. Zitter, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Well, lessons learned! Fortunately our other tomatoes on higher ground didn’t get anthracnose, and some of them will feature in Southern Exposure‘s Tomato Tasting at the Heritage Harvest Festival this weekend.

An amazing array of tomaotes. Photo by Epic Tomatoes author Craig LeHoullier

An amazing array of tomatoes.
Photo by Epic Tomatoes author Craig LeHoullier

 

 

6 thoughts on “Late carrot sowing, plenty of corn and okra, spotty tomatoes.

  1. Better late than never I guess. Sowed my storage beets and carrots late, we’ll see if they make it before the snow flies:) Have you tried covering late sowings with rowcover to get some extra growth happening while it is still warm-ish?

    My main question though is how do you keep your carrot beds clean? All manually with hoes or do you use tractors? I tried 5 rows this season, and wasn’t all together happy with it – we had a crazy year for weeds.But I don’t have flaming equipment, only do stale seedbeds.Thinking 3 rows and tractor cultivation would afford me some sanity, and just do an extra bed or two…Plus it gives me some slack if I am short on people-power.

  2. Row cover is a good idea I hadn’t thought of. Thank you!
    We cultivate our carrots manually. Actually we cultivate everything manually, as we don’t have tractor cultivating equipment.
    Flame-weeding has to be seen to be believed. When we first started with it, I said “It works so well it feels like cheating!”
    Stale seedbeds are good, we’ve tried harder this year to get the beds prepped at least a week before we need them, and then rake or scuffle-hoe them just before sowing.
    Having really parallel rows helps with doing very early hoeing between the rows as soon as the carrots are visible. We like the stirrup hoes from Johnnys. And of course it helps if the hoe width and the gap between rows is a close fit.
    Have you tried the bed prep method where the damp prepared beds are covered with black plastic tarps to germinate and then kill the weeds? Jean-Martin Fortier is making this method famous. See his book The Market Gardener or his website http://www.themarketgardener.com/market-gardening-tools/ or YouTube. The clumsy name in English (surely it will change?) is occultation. You can use silage tarps, or even landscape fabric.

    • Yep, know of the occultation. Maybe tarp-shading or something would be a less cumbersome word? Tried it on a patch and it worked great! The soil turns out great as well, all crumbly and nice.

      Going to put rowcower on my storage sowing round about now, we still have warmish nights and hot days.

      I am pretty much alone, with some help on the big tasks (planting/harvesting), managing 1 1/4 acre so I figure that fewer rows are going to leave me with more and/or better crops. Mind you, I’ve only got access to very rudimentary tools: A tool-frame and a set of knifes. Will see if I can get hold of some weedtines, that would be of great use as well. Good luck to your carrots!

  3. Regarding the flame weeder, Home Depot carries a flame torch in the tool section for around $50. With an old frame backpack, and a tank from the gas station, this is much cheaper than the red dragon offered byJohnny’s or Fedco. We also are trying the four row flamer this season. It is 24″ wide, so we do two passes on our 30 inch beds. It is much easier to get consistent results and to train others to use it.

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